ECU starts with a win
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
The American Athletic Conference baseball tournament began Tuesday morning in Clearwater, Fla., with a high-scoring and slow-moving game that lasted nearly four hours and ended as an 8-4 win for No. 4 seed East Carolina over No. 5 UCF, giving the Pirates 40 wins for the season.
It also gave ECU (40-15) a quality RPI victory early in a week that will be huge for NCAA tournament seeding and also could be tricky for the AAC because of reports from Florida suggesting a lot of rain in the forecast. The Pirates were originally scheduled to get a day off because of their win, but instead are slated for their second-round game Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. against upset winner Tulane during a fluid schedule situation.
Multiple fields at the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training complex are planned for use Wednesday in an attempt to play six games.
UCF (35-20) got to Chris Holba and plated three runs in the top of the first inning, but relievers Davis Kirkpatrick, Ryan Ross and Zach Barnes delivered clutch outings, not allowing any runs.
Andrew Henrickson provided a big boost offensively. He finished 3-for-4 with a double, triple and four RBIs. His double to right-center field with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh scored all three runners for an 8-4 lead.
“He played really well last year when he was here and we’ve talked about that he likes this place,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said of Henrickson during his postgame interview on the American Digital Network. “He’s a senior who has contributed a lot to our prograrm and plays his butt off all the time. I’m happy for him.”
Ross, also a senior, tossed two scoreless innings and didn’t yield a hit while striking out three batters for the pitching victory.
Bryant Packard finished 0-for-5, stopping his ECU-record and nation-leading hit streak at 32 games. Spencer Brickhouse and Alec Burleson, who will likely be the Pirates’ next starting pitcher, each went 2-for-4.
There is a chance the weather could be nasty enough to not allow the tourney to be completed as scheduled by Sunday afternoon.
"In the event that the tournament cannot be completed, then no champion would be declared," league spokesman Chuck Sullivan told the Tampa Bay Times. "The automatic bid to the NCAA (tournament) would go to the highest remaining seed."
UCF was without weekend starter Joe Sheridan due to injury and made an unconventional move by starting left-handed reliever Luis Ferrer, who made his second start of the season and recorded only one out.
The Pirates rallied to tie it, 3-3, in the second inning, and two more runs by the home team in the third made it 5-3 to offset a rough start by Holba, who was pitching on four days rest. He issued seven free passes — four walks, three hit batsmen — in allowing four runs on two hits in 3 1/3 frames.
Brickhouse hit a two-strike, two-out RBI single for the 3-3 tie and Henrickson’s RBI triple to deep right field in the third scored Connor Litton for a 4-3 edge. Brady Lloyd followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3.